NORTHERN COLORADO KNOCKS DOWN CLUTCH FREE THROWS TO SEAL VICTORY OVER MENâ€™S BASKETBALL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Kirk Archibeque tallied game highs in points (23) and rebounds (11), and Northern Colorado buried 9-of-10 free throws in the final 36.9 seconds to defeat Sacramento State, 84-81, in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Wednesday evening at the Hornets Nest.
Northern Colorado outscored Sacramento State, 49-42, and shot 63.6 percent (14-22) in the second half to overcome a four-point halftime deficit. The Hornets were whistled for their first two technical fouls of the season – one on the team’s bench with 2:02 left in the first half, and one called on Haron Hargrave with 4:32 remaining in the second half. The Bears converted three of their four technical free throws and that proved to be the difference as Northern Colorado had been 0-11 on the road prior to tonight’s victory.
After a lay-up from Sacramento State’s Loren Leath tied the game at 63-63 with 4:32 left, Hargrave was whistled for a technical while walking back to the bench after a timeout had been called. Sean Taibi hit 1-of-2 free throws and Dwayne Birden followed with a three-pointer to give the Bears a four-point lead (67-63) with 4:13 to play. Northern Colorado never trailed again, as it opened up a game-high eight point lead (72-64) with 1:34 remaining.
However, Sacramento State stormed back behind Angel Alamo who scored each of the Hornets’ last seven points, spanning the final 24 seconds of the game. Alamo’s first three-pointer of the season eventually cut the deficit to two points (83-81), before the Hornets immediately fouled with 1.9 seconds on the clock. Birden made 1-of-2 free throws, and a halfcourt heave from Sacramento State’s Kris Groce drew iron at the buzzer, but fell out.
Sacramento State continued to foul late in the game, but Northern Colorado kept making its free throws, including Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos making 7-of-8 free throws during the final 47 seconds. Archibeque went 2-of-2 from the line during the waning moments of the game, and Northern Colorado squeaked out the victory. Conversely, the Hornets converted 7-of-11 free throws during the final two minutes and shot just 15-of-25 (.600) from the stripe in the second half.
Northern Colorado, which is currently in its first year in the Big Sky, improved to 4-19 overall and 2-9 in the conference. The Bears avenged a loss earlier this season in which they fell to Sacramento State, 74-70, in Greeley, Colo. The loss for Sacramento State was devastating in that it dropped the team to 8-14 overall, 3-6 in the Big Sky, and the team slipped further back of the conference’s sixth and final playoff spot with seven games remaining on the regular season schedule. The Hornets, who have reached the Big Sky Tournament each of the last four years, are now in eighth place, 1.5 games back of three teams who are tied for fifth.
After shooting 52.2 percent (12-23) from the field in the first half, Sacramento State went cold in the second half (.375, 12-32), while missing 12 of its 15 three-point attempts in the second stanza. The Hornets had four players score in double figures, comprised of sophomore Loren Leath (21 points, six rebounds), Alamo (19 points, 10 rebounds), Hargrave (17 points, 12-of-13 from the free throw line) and Groce (12 points, six assists). For Alamo, it was his second double-double of the season and his 19 points were a season high. Leath scored just six points in the second half on 2-of-10 shooting after entering halftime with 15 points.
Archibeque shot 9-of-11 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line as the 6-9, 250-pound center scored all his buckets on lay-ups. Birden added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots, and Panagiotakopoulos scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
The Hornets will now embark upon a grueling three-game road trip that will see the team play three games in a span of six days. That includes this Saturday’s game at Idaho State (6:05 p.m. PST) and contests at Montana (Feb. 7) and Montana State (Feb. 8) on back-to-back days.